Pull off the interstate 20 miles south of Nashville, and a simple sign will welcome you to the “number one small town in Tennessee.” Strictly speaking, Franklin, Tennessee, is closer to a city than a small town—more than 78,000 people now live in Franklin, which is more than six times the number of people who lived there as recently as 1980—but through all its growth, Franklin hasn’t forgotten its small-town manners. From its founding in 1799 until the Civil War, Franklin was a rural but wealthy community of tobacco, hemp, and livestock farmers, as well as the many black Americans who were brought to Franklin as slaves. In 1864 the Civil War devastated Franklin, and when slavery was abolished, Franklin’s plantation economy collapsed. In the years since, Franklin has experienced a slow climb back to prosperity. However, today it’s one of the wealthiest cities in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. You can still find huge, rolling tracts of Tennessee greenery throughout Franklin, dotted with antebellum and Victorian homes and Civil War battlegrounds. Downtown Franklin is the quintessential picture of small-town charm, packed with shops, restaurants, and quaint cafés, all crowded into historic redbrick storefronts around narrow, lamp-lit streets. Franklin’s history has been anything but simple, but spend an afternoon making small talk over a plate of fried pickles, and you’re liable to feel like you’ve been transported to a simpler time.
When there was every reason in the world to stay away and see the ruins, one woman traveled to Greece to get to work.More